Guardianship and Fiduciary Litigation

Fiduciaries hold positions of trust and authority because they are acting on behalf of another person, their estate and/or a legal entity.  A fiduciary has a legal obligation to place that person’s interests above their own.  The following are common examples of fiduciaries.

  • Executors or administrators are empowered to manage the estate of a person who has passed away. They must safeguard the estate assets and distribute them in accordance with the terms of the will (if there is one) or court order.
  • Trustees are responsible for managing trust assets and making distributions in accordance with the terms of the trust. They must place the beneficiaries’ interests above their own and strictly comply with the terms of the trust.  They are to avoid any type of “self-dealing.”
  • Guardians have legal authority to act on behalf of someone, whether their estate, person or both, who is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for himself or herself. Their actions must be consistent with the best interests of the incapacitated person.
  • Agents or “attorneys-in-fact,” which arise under Powers of Attorney, like guardians, have legal authority to act on behalf of the person (their finances and/or medical decisions), who executed the power of attorney.

All fiduciaries have important legal obligations.  Specific responsibilities may vary depending on the legal instrument involved, the assets and finances at stake, and other individual circumstances, however, all fiduciaries share the fundamental duties of (i) care and diligence in handling assets and managing finances and (ii) loyalty and impartiality in placing the beneficiaries’ interests above their own and treating all beneficiaries fairly, which includes avoiding conflicts of interest.

If a fiduciary breaches these duties, he or she may be held personally liable for the resulting harm through a breach of fiduciary duty claim.  We have represented clients on both sides of the dispute from the trust beneficiaries to the trustee (and vice versa) and the ward to the guardian of the person and/or estate, who is charged with alleging breaching his or her duties, and vice versa.

If you have concerns about a fiduciary’s acts or omissions on behalf of another, or you are a fiduciary being accused of such acts or omissions, please call or e-mail us to make an appointment to discuss the matter.